June 7, 1956: The Day Old Niagara Died

Now that I have your attention with a dramatic headline, let’s go over the history of June 7, 1956.

On this day, the Schoellkopf Power Station fell into the gorge. If you’re interested in the full story on this, there is an excellent write-up of the entire event on NiagaraFrontier.com that I absolutely recommend.

Schoellkopf not only produced cheap hydroelectric power for local factories: it was the largest taxpayer in the city of Niagara Falls.

After Schoellkopf fell into the gorge, an argument over private-vs-public utility broke loose. This resulted in President Eisenhower signing exclusive hydropower production rights to the State of New York, and by extension, the New York Power Authority. The resulting Niagara Power Project, while absolutely amazing, came at too hefty a price tag and too long a wait time for Niagara Falls’ industrial core. This core never quite recovered.

This project also brought with it the Robert Moses Parkway, which cut the city off from its prime gorge views. It took until this year for much of the parkway to be finally removed.

Schoellkopf’s collapse also led to a Hail-Mary effort to repair the city’s finances: Urban Renewal. The following 60+ year loop of Niagara Falls’ financial issues cannot be understated.

As for Schoellkopf today, its ruins still sit underneath the Niagara Gorge Discovery Center. I’ve already written about the Niagara mermaid nook that allegedly sits within (whether you believe in mermaids or not, it’s still an awesome place to go). If you’re willing to hike the Niagara Gorge, I do recommend it.

So, while I firmly stand by the fact that Niagara isn’t actually dead (and this blog is enough proof of that), we do have a date for the death of old Niagara: June 7, 1956. Now, onto new Niagara….

-Sheepie ❤

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